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Your Mission Statement: The Foundation of Successful Strategic Planning – Part 2

Note: This is the second of a two-part series addressing the importance of your institution’s mission statement – not only in strategic planning but in daily operations. To read Part 1, click here.

How to develop your new mission statement

Developing your mission statement – either modifying an existing mission statement or starting over from scratch – is a team effort.

And to avoid the “cat herder effect” of working with a team, you need an effective process.

Step one: selecting the mission statement development team

You need a facilitator because you want the rest of the team focused on developing the mission statement. 

Additionally, you will want a writer who has familiarity with the institution on the team. And ‘familiarity’ means an understanding of why the institution exists, their primary target audience/segment, and what the goals and results should be for the institution moving forward.

Other members of the team should include the President/CEO, board chair and a manageable number of people representing the other stakeholders. (A ‘manageable number’ will vary so that’s another reason the facilitator is valuable – their prior experience with others, and their knowledge of your institution, will drive this decision.)

Step Two: Agree To Effective Mission Statement Criteria

The team should discuss what should be included in the mission statement at a high level. For example:

  • the higher education segment the institution works in and the current market environment.
  • the institution’s unique value consistently provided to the target audience/segment. 
  • And, distinctive core competencies.

Step Three: Brainstorming

One approach is to have each group member complete the sentence “The mission should be…”

Another is to create several small groups and have them complete a draft mission statement in a very short period – going with the gut, emotion rather than the rational.

For some, especially those that are more visual, ask them to draw a picture and tell a story about how that picture expresses the mission statement.

Whatever approach(es) you use, have the facilitator post the ideas and identify the words and phrases that appear most often. Discuss the key ideas presented – especially those that must be part of the mission statement.

At the end of the session, you should have at least one, ideally several draft statements.

Step Four: Evaluate And Decide

Compare the drafts with the criteria identified in Step Two. The facilitator leads a discussion, including everyone, on the perceived strengths, weaknesses and gaps in the first drafts.

After discussion, the facilitator has helped the group members evaluate the first-round submissions – and now asks each team member to write their own recommendation for the mission statement, and then read that to the group.

Once all have completed this task, the group votes to decide if they have developed an effective draft mission statement or if they should allow the writer to take the comments and input for this Step and create another set of drafts for further evaluation.

Step Five: External Input

The President/Chancellor and Board Chair identify people outside this writing group that should be allowed to review the efforts/drafts and offer input. The process for this should include:

  • Explaining the criteria that was agreed upon for an effective mission statement
  • Ask for a rating of each draft based on the criteria
  • Ask for comments on the strengths and weaknesses of the drafts as well as an explanation of their rating
  • Ask for recommendation for improvement

Step 6: Second Round Review

This is when the writing group reviews the second drafts as well as the comments from those outside the group. The writing group will then rate the current drafts based on the selection criteria, sharing perceived strengths and weaknesses with the group.

At this point, it’s time to write and approve a proposed mission statement.

Step 7: Proposed Mission Statement Approval

With the proposed mission statement written, it is not time to share with the board and any other key stakeholders that need to participate in the review and approval of the mission statement. Your facilitator will outline how best to accomplish this in an orderly, efficient manner – this is, after all, not something that gets shared via an “All Hands Email Blast.”


What do we do? Why do we exist?

How do we do it consistently in a unique, valuable manner?

Who do we do it for?

Those are the key questions you need to ask and answer. And as addressed above, this takes work, research, collaboration.

Writing an effective mission statement – one that unifies and directs your institution – takes time too. This is not something someone sits down and writes in a day.

If you’re thinking about your strategic plan, and the effectiveness of your current mission statement, feel free to contact us at 802.279.8125.

Written by

Strategic turnaround consultant and writer.

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